Perimeter blockRow houseSlab, point-access
Millennium Village Phase 2
Proctor and Matthews (Stephen Proctor and Andrew Matthews) | London, England | 2001
Image of Millennium...
Street facade, north block

ProjectMillennium Village Phase 2
ArchitectProctor and Matthews (Stephen Proctor and Andrew Matthews)
AddressGreenwich Peninsula, SE 10 (near Millennium Dome)
Building TypePerimeter block
Row house
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings189
Date Built2001
Dwelling Types2-3 story rowhouses, 1,2 & 3 BR flats, maisonetes and penthouses
No. Floors2-8
Section Typeflats and maisonettes
Exterior Finish
wood, plaster, steel, currogated aluminum, glass, terra cotta
Construction TypeR-C frame, timber frame, cold-rolled steel frame
Ancillary Servicesparking, school, health center, shopping

This project is the most recent addition to the new community planned for the Greenwich Peninsula. Part of the general Docklands development extending along the Thames east of Central London that has been under construction for the past 20 years, the peninsula was a polluted “brownfield” site left from the removal of a gas works. A huge exhibition hall, the Millennium Dome was built on the tip of the peninsula in 1999 and following this a master plan was proposed for a sustainable community of about 3000 dwellings, 50 acres of park land, an ecology park, commercial areas, schools and transportation links. A second competition for the first stage of building called the Millennium Village including 1400 dwellings, shopping, parking, a school and health center was won by Ralph Erskine and Hunt Thompson in 1998. The concept for this plan was a system of small perimeter blocks and meandering roads built around a central ecological park area along the northeast edge of the peninsula. The village was to be built in stages, each designed by different architects. Erskine Tovatt built the first stage of 450 apartments on a site along the river (see Millennium Village). The current stage by Proctor and Matthews includes 189 dwellings built on three adjacent blocks. A school, health center, shopping square and parking garage are also part of this stage of construction.

The main street that runs down the spine of the peninsula is also a bus route that passes through the middle of the Village site separating Erskine’s buildings and the adjacent park and ecology areas along the river with the blocks of the 2nd phase in the southwest quadrant of the site to the south. Following Erskine’s concept of a protective perimeter wall of apartments along the river, the blocks in the 2nd phase also present a taller perimeter surface along the access road. Within the group of 3 blocks, lower buildings, 2-4 stories high, define the semi-private landscaped courtyards required in Erskine’s master plan. These buildings consist of 3-4 story point-access blocks and 2 and 3 story townhouses, organized along landscaped pedestrian streets that have limited vehicular access. A new school and health center (designed by Edward Cullinan) has been built in the SW corner of the site and a new parking garage has been built along the south edge of the 2 southern blocks. A variation of the 3-story townhouse backs up to the north side of the garage.

The 8-story, point access block along the northeast side of one of the three blocks steps down to 4 stories along the side streets. This taller wall of apartments along the road simultaneously encloses the landscaped interior of the block, but also forms a defined edge to the open space from which there are fine views of the park and ecology areas to the north and east. These buildings are organized around repeating vertical cores and have complex facades that provide clues to the modular nature of the flats within and the prefabricated technology used in their construction.

The two southern blocks have some taller point access apartments along the north edge but mostly consist of 2 and 3 story townhouses of a similar plan type. These dwellings are entered from the pedestrian/access streets via small covered entrance courts and open to fenced patios on the interior of the block. Living spaces occupy the ground floor with bedrooms above. The third floor has another bedroom under the steeply pitched metal roof that can also be used as a work area. These two house types have differently pitched metal roofs and green ventilation stacks that alternate to form a concatenated, terraced massing. Another version of the 3-story type is used as a live/work unit that is built along the north side of the parking garage. Here the top floor doubles as a south-facing studio space that potentially opens to terrace spaces on the garage. Like the taller slabs, the townhouse types have a highly industrialized, articulated exterior quality.

Ralph Erskine long championed the application of vernacular detail to buildings to diminish the stark barren quality typical of much modernist housing. This attitude of decorated facades, perhaps derived from a more general “townscape” aesthetic, is expressed as the bricolage application of a combination of functional devices, balconies, galleries, sun screens and so on, and an assortment of purely decorative elements, colors, and different materials, textures and patterns. This process results in the distinctive layered, articulated, chiaroscuro facades of buildings like the Byker Wall. A watered down version of these principles was used in Erskine’s first phase of construction at Millennium Village and the principle seems to be more-or-less imbedded in the design criteria for subsequent phases. In the Proctor and Matthews buildings, the bricolage technique has deeper meaning because it is, at least partially, generated by the new technology available to the architects. This new technology includes the use of prefabricated panels that are finished in a variety of materials, and a new CAD-automated system of on-site fabrication of light gague, cold-rolled steel frames and panels.

Standard timber framing was used for the structure of the townhouses and typical reinforced column and flat slabs for the high-rise, 8 story buildings. The townhouses were sheathed with a system of prefabricated wood wall panels that were then covered with a second lightweight fiberglass covered aluminum honey-combed panel that is finished in variety of materials, corrugated aluminum on the upper walls, plaster or wood on the lower. Similar panels were used in the larger buildings, however, here the sub wall is made of cold-rolled steel sections that are fabricated on site and assembled into both interior and exterior walls. In some of the 3-story buildings, the entire structure is made of cold-rolled sections that are automatically cut, folded, crimped and drilled and assembled on site, a process developed in New Zealand by Scottsdale Construction Systems.

In addition to the structure and panel systems, Proctor and Matthews developed a system of accessories—a kit of parts—that is applied to the exterior walls as a kind of architectonic layer several feet deep. This applied zone is expressed in the townhouses as an entrance patio along the street that is formed by the surfaces of the bathroom walls and a trellis of cedar and glass that is supported by a galvanized steel frame. Wall surfaces here include horizontal cedar siding, full-height horizontal cedar louvers on some of the windows on the 2nd floor, painted plaster panels, and painted timber screens for storage doors. A full height glazing system is used that is painted yellow. The window in the top floor of the 3-story type is built into a steel frame that extends up from the 2nd floor window below and incorporates a perforated metal balustrade. The color scheme reinforces the layered, articulated look, corrugated aluminum walls and roofs, aluminum downspouts, galvanized metal framing, plaster panels in blue, yellow, gray and white, yellow windows and doors, and the red finish of the cedar trellises, louvers, and fences. A similar layered architectonic assemblage of articulated parts is used on the apartment buildings as well. Here a galvanized steel structural frame the depth of the balconies has been applied to the facades. This supports the balconies, defines a small protected space in front of the ground floor dwellings, and extends to a projecting trellis/sun screen at the top of the building. A similar pallet of materials and colors is used here along with frameless glass balustrades, perforated metal side balustrades, cantilevered cedar sunscreens on the south sides, and wall panels finished in terracotta. The full-height windows are framed with a surround of galvanized steel. The 3-story apartment blocks step back at the 3rd floor, a zone defined with a continuous balustrade of plaster panels and an overhanging, projecting trellis in steel and cedar. This concatenated, articulated zone of detail is transparent and reflective, a sort of high-tech version of Erskine’s vernacular veneer.

An RIBA team of award panelists visiting the site in 2003 worried about the maintenance on all these exposed details, however, much of this is made of materials that should weather well; aluminum, galvanized steel, glass, plaster, and stained cedar. Actually, the combination of steel sections and aluminum flashing as a source of galvanic corrosion might be more or a source of future problems. A similar criticism was leveled at the landscaping for being too finicky. But certainly, one of the most successful parts of Phase 2 has been the landscape design by Robert Rummary. In addition to the courtyards that are landscaped with both hard surfaces and plant materials including lighting and sculpture, and defined spaces at the ground floor of the buildings, the streets are also fully landscaped. While the streets are needed for vehicular access (and are protected with retractable ballards), it was important that these areas were treated primarily as pedestrian areas that provide pleasant passage from the parking to the dwellings that also provide a spatial transition from public to private realms at the entrances to the houses and apartments. Overall, the design goals for a sustainable community envisioned in Erskine’s concept have been carefully followed including both site planning and building construction objectives.

Powell, Kenneth, New London Architecture, Merrell, London, 2001, pp. 176-7

Architects Journal, Feb. 1, 2001, pp. 26-35

RIBA Journal, July, 2003, pp. 30-36; 62-64.

The Housing Design Awards, 1997-2003, RIBA

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